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A Spy In Tortuga by Jeff Lisenby

Jeff Lisenby breaks the stereotypical mold of accordion with this superb offering of originals and well chosen covers. Opening with "Donna Lee," the Charlie Parker classic, he establishes his jazz credentials immediately. He plays it in four part harmony with drums, bass and guitar. Then, to establish his wide variety of musical experiences, he offers a swinging take on "Ring Of Fire." He was the musical director for the Broadway version of "Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash." This is followed in turn by the beautiful "With Every Breath I Take," from the "City of Angels" musical.

Lisenby takes it to New Orleans with a zydeco flavored "Bill Bailey," on which Abby Burke sings with a sassy, funky flavor. The following "Solina," is an original that reminds of Astor Piazolla at times, with a decidedly heavy percussive backbeat. The title piece has a tango flavor, "Face to Faith" a funky drive and "Caruban Knights" is awash in moonlit skies and island breezes.

The bluesy "Nothing I Can Do" was written by and sung by Lisenby’s daughter Jaclyn Brown, and "Twelve" was written by guitarist Gerstengarbe in a Schoenberg style. The latter features an impressive piano solo before Lisenby dazzles with his accordion. Both tunes impress in their own style. On "Out of Nowhere," Lisenby seems to be enjoying himself on a straight ahead accordion tune with jazz flourishes. The final song is a contemporary and funky take on "Ease On Down the Road," from "The Wiz."

Lisenby’s resume includes a National Championship as a classical accordionist. He even accompanied Luciano Pavarotti. There were gigs with the Mills Brothers, Donna Summer, Loretta Lynn and the Coasters along the way, too. This is a man who has been around that proverbial block a time or two. The packaging is difficult to read. Dark on dark with a wash of color may look good, but it doesn’t read well. The personnel are listed under the peg in the jewel box that holds the CD in place. Try reading through that.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jeff Lisenby
  • CD Title: A Spy In Tortuga
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Silver Nitrate Records
  • Musicians: Jeff Lisenby (accordion, keyboards), Chris Brown, Ray Von Rotz(drums), Glen Caruba (percussion), Matt Davich (woodwinds), Andre Reiss, Johannes Gerstsengarbe (guitars ), Tim Smith (electric bass), Roger Spencer (upright bass), Jeff Taylor (keyboards)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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